Inspired Imagination

I have been convinced of the benefits and blessings http://bertbruner.com/Images/Books.gifof living books, great literature, great fiction in our homeschooling.   We use literature-based curriculums.  They have transported us into ancient times, allowed us to step into the lives and ways of famous people and have filled our imaginations with beautiful details of places we could only visit in our minds.

Some Christian homeschoolers object to all fantasy.  Some oppose fiction altogether.  They believe that Christians should only be interested in truth, and they only read biographies, histories and non-fiction.

Other Christians homeschoolers embrace all fantasy; stories containing ancient myths, paganism and the popular Harry Potter books.

I was conflicted about this some years ago.  I mixed with homeschooling parents who strongly stood for both of these views and I found it to be a contentious issue.

I could not abandon imagination, fiction and fantasy.

I needed to find a place of discernment.  In the process we watched some Christian DVD’s on this, and we “cleaned house“; we burnt books, toys, jewelery, music, DVD’s, videos, clothing ….  It was a tremendously liberating, yet difficult process.

But in the 3 or so years that followed, we re-examined some choices.  My kids regretted the destruction of some items and I was still caught in a “grey area” on the issue of our schooling choices of our fiction and fantasy books.

Personally, in those 3 years, my quiet times and journalling became dutiful, colourless.  I sought the Lord and asked for His truth and freedom.

During a fellowship gathering in October last year, I experienced the Lord in a profoundly new way.

I had a vision.

Not only did the vision unfold as I sat quietly, but it continued with ministry, until it was a full story.

I was wonderfully set free.

In the days following this vision, I needed God’s confirmation.

Was it all just in my imagination?

In His word, I read in Jeremiah 1: 9-12 where the Lord asks Jeremiah,

” What do you see?” (asks him about a vision)

Jeremiah tells the Lord what he sees (a vision of an almond branch) and the Lord says,

“You have seen well (God agrees with Jeremiah’s vision), for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.”

I was fully liberated.

God Himself speaks through visions and dreams.

My quiet times are now fresh and creative.

I have a new spiritual journal – a spiral notebook with blank pages and my entries are filled with pictures, poems, prayers, colours, patterns.

Sanctified imagination is not evil.

It is God’s gift to us.

I recently started reading a book The Soul of the Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by Gene Veith, written in two parts.  The first part is an exposition of the story, its symbolism and themes, and the second part he delves into larger issues regarding Christian (and also non-Christian and even anti-Christian) fantasy.

He mentions that The Chronicles of Narnia persuade young readers towards Christianity, just as Harry Potter books were written to persuade readers towards atheism.

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C.S. Lewis wrote the marvellous truths of Christianity in Narnia, his fairy tale and Lewis said,

“Supposing that by casting all these things (Christianity) into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stain-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for their time appear in their potency?  Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons?”

Gene Veith says that imagination needs training just as the intellect does.  He says,

“When we read, we exercise our imagination, picturing what is happening as we process the author’s words.  With television and movies, someone else has imagined the story for us.”

He describes the spiritual realm as great abstract concepts, and that the Bible contains historical narratives and poetic literature and spiritual descriptions and images of God’s invisible kingdom and the return of Christ.

It is important for a child to know that when a human author creates a world, it exists only in the writer’s imagination and in his readers’ minds, but when God creates a world, it actually exists.

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Veith says,

“The challenge is to discern the difference between good fantasy and bad fantasy, recognizing not only the content, but also its effects on the reader.”

and,

“Children who have a strong sense of functionality and who know that there is a difference between the story and the actual world are inoculated against most of the bad effects of fantasy.”

As our homeschooling unfolds, I am inspired.

Imagination is a wonderful God-breathed tool to be used for Good.

How has the Lord led you in these areas?

Blessings,

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This post was submitted and inspired by the upcoming CM Carnival’s theme ~ “Imagination”.  Join us!

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28 thoughts on “Inspired Imagination

    • @Palmy, yes, in my original draft, which I edited for my actual post [smile], I mentioned that J.R.R. Tolkein, author of The Lord of the Rings books, actually inspired C.S. Lewis to become a believer. And let’s not forget the great classic Chrisitian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, an inspirational Chrisitian fictional book, revealed spiritual truths to its readers.

  1. Thank you. I am so tired of illiterate Christians. Most great literature uses Biblical symbolism at some level. How does anyone raised in a public school system or enter college without having been taught this? It is astonishing to me how anyone prepares their children for the world without teaching them the things necessary for them to relate to, work with, and witness to, non-believers (1 Corinthians 9:20). Being knowledgeable and having an understanding of history, a history that includes the literature of its age, among other dimensions, is absolutely necessary for being an effective witness in our society.

  2. Nadene: I agree with you so very much. We have the same debate in our own homeschool groups. What I chose to do was to teach my children what paganism, demonism, fantasy, truth, folklore and the Bible look like – We discuss all things against the scripture so that my children can recognize what is not true. They are now able to determine what is paganism, what is fantasy, etc., and more importantly, they easily discern the differences between what “sounds good” and what “is good.” So many forms of storytelling worship the creation instead of the Creator. It is easy to make jumps from ‘being a good steward’ to all things mother nature. Thank you for your thoughtful insights. It’s very liberating.

  3. Nadene,
    Your latest post was very helpful and affirming to me. How often do you
    do narration and dictation with your kids? My son is in 5 th grade. I am in my second year of home schooling and appreciate your input with your website very much. God bless you! Nancy Larimer

  4. I agree with you, Nadene! And, thank you for the inclusion of Tolkein. My 18yo dd is a huge C.S. Lewis/Narnia fan (really, ask her anything related to Lewis/Narnia!) She can carry on a conversation w/ anyone about the deeper shades of meaning in the Narnia books, as my 17yo son can about Tolkein and Lord of the Rings. Several years ago, this interest sparked an interest in my now 23yo son, along w/ the younger siblings, to join a Christian theatrical sword-fighting group. Through this group, they presented drama productions and mini-priductions with a gospel message to the local community. Through all of this, they were able to affirm their own beliefs and carry the message to others through a (fun!) medium….All because 2 Christian men dared to write ‘fantasy.’

    Blessings,
    Lori

    • @Mummy2six, Your sons are fortunate to have such a wonderful, creative outlet to express their faith (and be dashing young men!) I marvel at the insights and maturity of Christian homeschooled young adults. Reading great literature provides them with real food – for their hearts, minds and spirits.

  5. Definitely an area to be mindful of the Lord’s leading. Bottom line–does it line up with Scripture or not. Philippians 4:8 is always a good place to start: Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. There is a plenty of room within this verse for imagination and creativity, but what are we imagining and creating? For me, if it lines up with Phil 4:8, then all is well. Having adopted my children at 3.5 yrs of age from overseas ,they had never played with toys, had never colored anything, had no idea what an imagination was. We had to teach them to imagine, to create, to make believe. Now at 8 they amaze us with their stories, handmade puppets, and drawings. But exposing them to things worthy of thinking and imagining about was key.

    • @Rhoda, Good point – the Scripture is always the measure. It is good to train our children to discern against the word of truth. What a precious testimony of how you children’s imaginations were kindled with great thoughts and ideas! They are blessed indeed!

  6. Besides agreeing with your points, I can offer a personal glimpse into books like these: I was raised in an aetheist, often anti-Christian, home but my parents loved good literature I was immersed in the likes of Lewis and Tolkien from an early age. While reading the Narnia series I remember weeping for Aslan and his death – and distinctly felt the presence of God in my bedroom that night, although then I knew nothing of Him. Somehow, these books managed to minister to a little enquiring mind and heart many years ago, and today they remain my annual read and favourite. I think the Master Storyteller (Jesus) would have highly approved of the analogies – and my own young ones often understand deeper truths by being referred back to Aslan :)

    • @Sarah, thank you for sharing your Aslan experience! My young daughter had a very similar experience after our bedtime reading of Aslan’s death and she gave her heart to the Lord that night. A few weeks later, she recognised the Easter Passover was the in fact same thing, and again prayed with such conviction and devotion to the Lord. I’m grateful that the Lord ministers to young hearts in this way!

  7. King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
    And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: Joel 2:28

    The Lord is still speaking in these days in dreams and visions. He has no doubt spoken to you. You can always recognize the Lord’s doing because it bring brings life and freedom. Satan only spreads confusion and death.

  8. Hmm. If I may be so bold as to interject in this conversation. I found this site looking for some help on a mini books project and I found your post about them to be an awesome source. Thank you! I see many parallels in our lives, parents, homemakers, partners, crafters, readers. But I don’t homeschool, it’s not for me. But I am curious about your dilemma. What is the purpose of denying your children literature? Is that not a wonderful place to learn life’s lessons and about our human condition? I’ve never read a book and decided to base my life or moral compass on it. But it has given me perspective on how to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. Even Harry Potter is so strangely demonized. It’s basically a story about the battle between good and evil. And if your life experience has been a deeply Christian one, you could easily frame the lessons of the HP book in a biblical sense. But to deny a book means to deny the discussion. If you want your children to grow up whole heartily Christian then is it not better to face those challenges of faith and then hold onto it? Or would you rather them believe in something because that’s the only world they have ever known a faith of ignorance so to speak.
    I’m sorry to hear your inner struggles. As a parent I have faced them too. There are many things we have fostered in our current culture that I find degrading to our humanity. My hope is to raise our girls with an open heart and a critical mind.
    Thanks!

    • @Alison, thank you for your interesting observations. I did not have clarity about my young children reading all sorts of fantasy books. I encourage my children to discuss books and ideas and defend their faith with conviction. For each family, these choices are personal, but I agree with you that I want to cultivate an education that provides my children with “an open heart and a critical mind”.

  9. I appreciate your thoughts on this matter. This has been a debate in my homeschooling circles as well. I was not exposed to much ‘fantasy’ growing up, but my husband is a big fan. So we’ve been striving to find a balance that works for our family.

  10. I find another c.s. Lewis idea helpful for discerning this topic–training our kids in the stock responses through things that are true, good, and beautiful. True things are not always found in non fiction. There is lots of truth in fantasy. We were made for stories this is why jesus uses so many parables to teach truth.

  11. I have thought of these issues also. We love Lewis and Tolkien, and once our children are old enough, I think we’ll either read them together or have them read them. Harry Potter has been pondered over quite a bit by myself. While I don’t allow our children to read them (9 yrs old is oldest) and I don’t enjoy the movies, I enjoy the books. I may be wrong and may be convicted later, but I give no power to the fanciful early books of the series or the later books that are quite dark and actually creepy. The verse on thinking of what is lovely and true has come to mind, and yes, there is darkness in HP, but there is light, though not God’s light. The dilemma continues for me. I don’t want my impressionable children reading them. For now, I tentatively say that if you give no power to them, there is none. I may be wrong. :/

  12. Pingback: Inspired Imagination | Homeschool HUB

  13. Nadine, this is a beautiful post! This is a subject that addresses what has been one of the biggest areas of discernment for us and one of the hardest stands we’ve had to take. I have always felt the Lord leading us to do what is so nicely summed up in one of the quotes you used about discerning between good fantasy and bad fantasy. Many of the people who have argued with us have been lumping all fantasy together and you either take it all or leave it all. We have felt led to look at it book by book and discern that way.There have been some things that we have eventually explored with our kids as they have matured spiritually, but HP books are still on our no-go list and are likely to stay there along with a lot of the other wizard, witch craft and vampire series. We just aren’t going there. People have treated us like we’re crazy and have tried to argue the subject to the point that it is really irritating. Why do they care that my kids aren’t reading books by a couple of authors? My kids are voracious readers and have beautiful imaginations and vocabularies and knowledge of cultural and historical references. We couldn’t be more pleased! The most wonderful thing is that with all of the arguments and debates, our kids have never given us a bit of trouble over it. They know where we stand and trust our discernment. The subject actually never even comes up. What a blessing!

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